This website is designed to provide basic information about the historical development of music education in Australia. Aside from the overview provided below. there are links to other pages which provide a listing of bibliographic sources for the history of music education in Australia and a gallery of portraits and biographical details for a number of prominent Australian music educators -- see the links immediately below.
The following summary is an expanded and updated version of a draft for an article entitled "Music Education in Australia " authored by Robin Stevens and published in The Oxford Companion to Australian Music (edited by Warren Bebbiington), Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1997, pp. 396-399.
1. Specialist Musical Training
1.1 The Colonial / Early Federation Period
(i) Foundation of University Conservatoria. Music was perceived as a desirable artistic pursuit and social accomplishment for the sons and particularly the daughters of upper and middle class families. Accordingly young people received private tuition in instrumental or vocal music from a visiting professional musician or from a private teaching studio. This was also the case for young people who exhibited particular musical talent and wished to undertake vocational training as performers. Numerous private teaching studios and conservatoria were established during the nineteenth century and set the scene for the establishment of university conservatoria: the Elder Conservatorium at the University of Adelaide under the first professor of music, Joshua Ives in 1885 (the first university conservatorium to be established in the Southern Hemisphere) and the Melbourne University Conservatorium under G.W.L. Marshall-Hall in 1895. The New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music was established in 1915 with Henri Verbrugghen as Director. In 1900, Marshall-Hall vacated the Ormond Chair of Music at the University of Melbourne and established the Albert Street Conservatorium as private institution which later became the Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music, Richmond (this institution was affiliated with Victoria University of Technology during the 1990s but eventually ceased to operate in 2008).
(ii) Public Music Examinations. Visiting examiners from British public examining bodies such as the Associated Boards of the Royal Schools of Music, Trinity College (London) and London College of Music from the early 1880s fulfilled an important legitimating role for private teaching studios and institutions in examining their students for grade certificates and diplomas. Several local institutions including the Musical Association (later the Musical Society of Victoria) also conducted examinations. By 1887 and 1903 respectively the University of Adelaide and the University of Melbourne had entered the field and in 1907 jointly established the precursor of the Australian Music Examinations Board. By 1914, the Universities of Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland had become partners in operating the AMEB and in 1916 they were joined by the NSW State Conservatorium allowing the AMEB become a national organisation coordinated by a Federal Council although operated by State Committees or Boards of Directors.
1.2 The Modern Era
(i) Universities, Conservatoria and Special Music Secondary Schools.
Departments of music and conservatoria were progressively established so that by 1994 there were twenty-four Australian universities offering music courses in some form. Special pre-tertiary level music training schools were established at the NSW State Conservatorium, the Queensland Conservatorium and the Victorian College of the Arts as well as special music high schools in Perth and Adelaide as a means of preparing musically-talented young people for professional training. In 1994 the Federal Government announced the establishment in Melbourne of a National Academy of Music as 'a centre of training excellence for musicians of outstanding talent'.
(ii) Corporate and Private Teaching Studios. Two Japanese instrumental teaching methods were introduced to Australia in 1970. The Yamaha Music Schools chiefly in Melbourne and Sydney and to a lesser extent in other Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and some regional centres offer group music teaching to children and beginning adults principally through 'electone' keyboards. The Yamaha Music Foundation of Australia has a system of grade certificate and diploma examinations. Suzuki Talent Education was introduced to Australia by Harold Brissenden. This system promotes the teaching of violin, viola, 'cello, flute, piano and guitar through the 'mother-tongue' method. In addition there are numerous instrumental and vocal teachers who teach in private practice throughout Australia.
(iii) Public Music Examinations. Due to competition from the AMEB, the Associated Board ceased operations in Australia as did London College of Music, the Australian Guild of Music and Speech taking over the operations of the latter in 1969-70. Another music examining body, the Australian and New Zealand Cultural Arts, commenced operations in 1983.
(iv) Music Camps. The music camp movement in Australia, founded by Professor John Bishop and Ruth Alexander in the late 1940s, has provided orchestral and other ensemble performance opportunities for several generations of young instrumental players through the National Music Camp Association. In addition, there are state music camps as well as regional music camps held particularly over school summer vacation for orchestral musicians as well as numerous community-based youth music organisations such as the Dandenong Ranges Music Council in Victoria.
(v) Music teacher organisations. Most states have Music Teacher Associations which represent teachers in private practice as well as teachers of instrumental and vocal music in schools. The Institute of Music Teachers was established in 1977 as a national accreditation body for studio music teachers but has now ceased operating. In addition, there are specialist teachers organisations—such as Australian String Teachers Association and the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing—at the national level.
2. Music in General Education
2.1 The Colonial / Early Federation Period
(i) Vocal music in NSW and Victorian schools. Due principally to their larger populations and also to the wealth generated by the gold mining, school education in New South Wales and Victoria developed at a faster rate than in the less populous colonies. The origin of school music in Australia is essentially that of transplanted British educational practice. Vocal music was introduced to English elementary schools and teacher training institutions in the early 1840s when the Committee of Council on Education published an English adaptation by John Hullah of the French 'fixed doh ' solmisation method for use in schools. The rationale for the introduction of vocal music to English schools as well as to the adult population through the nineteenth century English choral singing movement—its 'humanizing and civilizing influence'—was perceived as being all the more pressing in NSW and Victoria during the 1850s given the 'convict taint' and the influx of immigrants of often dubious moral character to the goldfields. In this sense, music was introduced to schools not so much for its intrinsic values but as a form of pedagogy for instilling (through the words of school songs) moral, patriotic and religious values in children. It was also viewed as healthy recreation for children and a means of making schools attractive to both children and parents.
In New South Wales, vocal music was introduced to public schools using Hullah's fixed-doh method but by 1867 James Fisher (1826-1891), the singing master appointed to Sydney schools, successfully introduced Curwen's tonic sol-fa (movable-doh ) system as the official teaching method and also established singing as part of the ordinary school curriculum. Music teaching in NSW primary schools has since then generally been the responsibility of generalist classroom teachers. Hugo Alpen (1842-1917) was appointed as Superintendent of Music by the Department of Public Instruction in 1884 and gradually transferred the teaching of music from tonic sol-fa to a movable-doh staff notation method of his own devising. This method pre-empted similar developments in English education by almost a decade. Alpen's successor, Theodore Tearne (1857-1926), was Supervisor of Music from 1909 to 1922.
The situation in Victoria differed significantly from that in New South Wales in that singing masters were appointed from the outset as itinerant specialists at the main centres of population. George Leavis Allen (1827-1897), later to establish a successful music retailing business, was appointed as singing master by the Denominational School Board in 1853. Music was obviously highly valued in schools at this time as Allan's a salary was £300 per annum (later £450) at a time when classroom teachers received only £100-120 per annum. Other appointments followed and by 1962 an estimated one-third of school children in Victoria were being taught singing—using Hullah's fixed-doh method—by visiting singing masters under the National and Denominational School Boards. Under subsequent educational authority (the Board of Education, 1862-1872), the cost of providing specialist music teaching in schools saw the itinerant singing masters initially dismissed and then, after public protest, re-instated in 1864 under a scheme which saw their remuneration being derived from extra-fees paid by parents and effectively making music an extra-curricular subject. Under the Department of Public Instruction, singing was included in the 'Course of Free Instruction' from 1874 and taught either by itinerant singing masters or by classroom teachers qualified with a 'license to teach singing' who were paid an additional £10 per annum to give musical instruction. In 1878, Joseph Summers (1839-1917) was appointed as Inspector of Music.
By the late 1860s, the tonic numeral (staff notation) method—devised by John Waite in England—replaced Hullah's method in Victorian schools. In 1879, a tonic sol-fa enthusiast, Samuel McBurney (1847-1909) began a long campaign for recognition of that system as a school music teaching method. It was not until 1896 that a tonic sol-fa syllabus was placed on the same footing as the staff notation syllabus. Meanwhile, Summers forfeited his position as Inspector of Music in 1891 (due to bankruptcy) which was eventually filled two years later by McBurney. With the onset of the economic depression of the 1890s, the government of the day dismissed all singing masters, abolished the position of Inspector of Music, and ceased all extra payments to classroom teachers of music. Henceforth, the teaching of singing was the responsibility classroom teachers, although there was little or no music teaching evident in schools until the mid 1910s. In 1915 the Inspector of Manual Training and Drawing and an ardent tonic sol-fa-ist, John Byatt (1862-1930) took on the additional responsibility of re-organising school music in Victoria.
(ii) School music in other colonies. In South Australia, the tonic sol-fa method was employed for teaching music in primary schools from the early 1870s. But it was until Alexander Clark (1843-1913), as an inspector of schools, promoted tonic sol-fa through in-service education for classroom teachers that singing became mandatory in primary schools in 1890 and a singing syllabus based on the tonic sol-fa was included in the school curriculum in 1895. This period saw the founding of a choir of children from public schools (later referred to as the 'Thousand Voice Choir') by the Public Schools Decoration Society in 1891, which has continued to the present under the South Australian Public (Primary) Schools Music Society. Another tonic sol-fa-ist, Frank (Francis Lymer) Gratton (1871-1947), after a few years in Tasmania, was appointed the first Supervisor of Music (1922-36).
In Queensland, music was being taught by itinerant specialist teachers in some Brisbane and Toowoomba schools by the early 1870s, and by 1875 vocal music was listed as a subject in the 'Primary School Schedule' but with the stipulation that it should be taught using staff notation, not tonic sol-fa. In 1908 George Sampson was appointed as Music Adviser to the Department of Public Instruction until 1930 when Charles Hall took over this role as lecturer in music at the Teachers College.
The introduction of music to schools in Tasmania was a more gradual process and it was not until 1905 that singing by the tonic sol-fa method was included in the 'Course of Instruction' for primary schools. The key figures in promoting school music in Tasmania were Frank Gratton, from South Australia, who tonic sol-fa in Launceston and northern Tasmania from 1906 until returning to South Australia in 1911 and Victor von Bertouch, also a South Australian tonic sol-fa enthusiast, who was music instructor at the Hobart Teachers College.
Instrumental music in schools during the colonial period was limited to drum and fife bands which were viewed as an extension of military drill which was taught in many schools.
2.2 The Modern Era
(i) Administration of and provision for music teaching in schools. Secondary education developed in all state education systems during the 1910s and 1920s and specialist music teachers were being appointed to high schools by the 1930s. Directors of Music were also appointed at the larger private schools such as Scotch College in Melbourne and St. Peters in Adelaide. Instrumental music also become an important with orchestras and bands being established in secondary schools from the late 1920s. The Gillies Bequest (1926) which provided funds for the purchase of instruments for use in schools was an important factor in promoting instrumental teaching and ensemble performance in Victorian state schools.
In NSW, H.F. Treharne succeeded Alpen as Supervisor of Music in 1922. Then in 1948, a School Music Centre was established under Terrance Hunt to supervise music teaching by generalist teachers in primary schools and specialist teachers in secondary schools. By 1970 there were four Inspectors of Music in NSW. Under the decentralisation policy of the 1980s, Music Advisers were appointed to each of the Education Regions in NSW, responsible principally for promoting music in primary schools. The present Inspector of Creative Arts is Jay McPherson who was formerly Inspector of Music.
In Victoria, Alfred B. Lane was appointed as the first Supervisor of Music in Victoria in 1923 and under his auspices, itinerant music teachers were appointed to teach in secondary schools and in some primary schools. By 1940 this group of specialists became known as the Music Branch. Doris M. Irwin (1905-94) succeeded Lane as Supervisor of Music in 1943 and was followed in 1970 by Helen McMahon. By 1975, there were 107 staff attached to the Music Branch. However in 1978 a new scheme for providing music education in primary schools meant disbanding the Music Branch and establishing 236 new positions for music specialists and regional music advisers in primary schools. With a further shift in official policy in 1982, all these positions were abolished together with most of the music adviser (consultant) positions. The majority of specialist primary music teachers either obtained on-staff 'tagged' music positions where available or returned as generalist teachers to primary classrooms. In secondary schools, music was part of the ordinary curriculum for years 7 and 8 by the 1960s and available for elective study through to year 12. In 1966, the first Secondary School Inspector of Music, Alexandra E. Cameron, was appointed to be succeeded by Bruce Worland in 1972 whose position later became that of Senior Music Development Officer. With further devolution of administrative functions to schools, centralised supervisory positions as well as itinerant music teacher positions have been phased out in Victoria as in some other states.
In South Australia, Alva I. Penrose was the Supervisor of Music from 1937 until 1959. John S. Slee succeeded him as Supervisor from 1960 to 1974 during which time the Music Branch was responsible for supervision of both classroom and instrumental teaching in schools. Alan Farwell followed from 1975 until 1985 after which the Music Branch became the administrative unit for itinerant instrumental teachers until they were re-formed into localised instrumental teaching teams.
The first Supervisor of Music in Queensland was Kevin Siddell who was appointed in 1970. The Music Section consisted of a staff of itinerant instrumental teachers serving several school regions and of classroom music specialists providing in-service education for classroom teachers and some primary school teaching. Siddell was succeeded as Supervisor by Ann Carroll whose role was expanded to become Principal Policy Officer of a new Visual and Performing Arts Unit established in 1991. The present Principal Education Officer (The Arts) is a music educator, Mike Tyler.
In Tasmania, the work of Gratton and von Bertouch led to the appointment of specialist singing teachers in primary schools from 1927. Although high schools had been part of the Tasmanian state school system since 1913, it was not until the 1940s that music became part of the secondary school curriculum. The first Supervisor of Music to be appointed was George Limb in 1946. Wilfred King succeeded him in 1950 and then John Morriss became Supervisor of Music in 1972.
The first Supervisor of Music in Western Australia was Campbell Egan who was appointed in 1928 to promote singing and music appreciation in schools. A Music Branch was established and when Edgar Nottage, Egan's successor, was appointed as Acting Superintendent (1955-58) and then as Superintendent (1958-1981) instrumental music initially recorder playing and later a Suzuki program was developed in secondary schools during the 1970s. Roy Rimmer was appointed as Superintendent of Music in 1981 but in 1987 this position was discontinued in favour of music education coordinator and instrumental coordinator positions. In 1995 a new position of Superintendent of the Arts was created.
With the devolution of administration of state education from the central departmental authority to regions andthen ultimately to the local school level during the 1980s, most states dispensed with supervisors and a centrally-administered music teaching staff. The current position is that the responsibility for school teaching in state primary schools is either with generalist teachers or with 'on-staff' music specialists, and in secondary schools, with 'on-staff' specialist music teachers. Instrumental teaching at the secondary level is generally provided by visiting instrumental teachers assigned to a group of schools.
(ii) Classroom music teaching methods. From about 1920 the music curriculum expanded greatly. Firstly the introduction of gramophones to schools in the 1920s ushered in the music appreciation movement. The teaching of music listening in schools was pioneered by Frances Elliot Clarke in the United States and by Stewart MacPherson, Ernest Read and Percy Scholes in the United Kingdom. By the 1930s, the gramophone was being used in schools for music appreciation classes, and music programs which included aspects of music appreciation were being broadcast by the ABC and its precursors by the Melbourne musician Dr. E. A. Floyd. Another important impetus to the music appreciation movement was the inauguration of schools' concerts at the Melbourne Town Hall by the conductor Bernard Heinze in 1929 with similar developments taking place in other states.
Next followed 'Music through Movement' which was based on Dalcroze eurhythmics. This approach was promoted by Heather Gell (1896-1988) who studied the Dalcroze method in London during the 1920s. Returning to Adelaide, Gell promoted Dalcroze in South Australia before moving to Sydney to present a series of weekly national broadcasts to schools on ABC radio from 1938. The 'music through movement' continues to have an important role in the school music curriculum and is promoted through Dalcroze Societies in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Percussion bands were introduced to primary music classrooms from the 1920s and later still, following the introduction of recorder playing to English schools by Arnold Dolmetsch, recorder groups were established in schools from 1940s. However it was not until the 1960s that classroom instrumental music and creative music making became more firmly established as part of the music curriculum with the Orff-Schulwerk approach. Keith Smith introduced Orff-Schulwerk to Queensland schools from where it spread to other states. John Morriss initially in Victoria and later in Tasmania also promoted the method. There are Orff-Schulwerk Associations in most states.
Another significant influence on school music was the Kodály method which was introduced to Australia by Deanna Hoermann. After a study tour to Hungary, Hoermann returned to Australia and in 1971 established the 'Kodály Pilot Project' under the auspices of the NSW Department of Education in the West Metropolitan Region of Sydney. The success of this pilot program led to the wider promotion of Kodály teaching in NSW and other states. The method has now become well established in Australia as the 'Developmental Music Program' which Hoermann has, with various collaborators, adapted to suit the Australian cultural context. The Kodály Music Education Institute of Australia, established in 1973, has branches in most states and promotes the method through professional development activities for teachers.
As a result of a decision by the Australian Education Council in 1989, a national curriculum for Australian schools was published in 1994 which includes music as one of six subject strands within the National Arts Curriculum ('Statement' and 'Profiles'). The significance of the national curriculum is that it re-affirms the place of music as a integral element in the general education of young people in Australia. A National Review of School Music Education was undertaken by the Australian Government in 2004-05 which resulted in the formation of a Music Education Advisory Group from 2007-09. This Group was not re-appointed but representation was afforded to music as well as other the arts in the development of a new Australian [National School] Curriculum during 2009-2012.
(iii) Music education organisations. The Australian Society for Music Education was founded in 1966 and has chapters in all Australian states as well as a national council. ASME is the representative in Australia of the International Society for Music Education and is the publisher of The Australian Journal of Music Education. Another national organisation is the Association of Music Education Lecturers (AMEL) which has existed since 1978 and was renamed firstly the Australian Association for Research in Music Education and then the Australian and New Zealand Association for Research in Music Education. The Callaway International Resource Centre for Music Education (CIRCME) was established at the University of Western Australia from a collection of materials presented by Emeritus Professor Sir Frank Callaway (1919-2003). A leading advocate for music education is the Music Council of Australia which, through its Executive Director Richard Letts, represents Australia on the International Music Council that in turn operates under the auspices of UNESCO. In addition there are school music and specialist method associations in the various states.
Bridges, D.M. (1970), The Role of the Universities in the Development of Music Education in Australia, 1885-1970. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.
Stevens, R.S. (1978), Music in State-Supported Education in New South Wales and Victoria, 1848-1920. PhD thesis, University of Melbourne.
Lepherd, L. (1994), Music Education in International Perspective: Australia. University of Southern Queensland Press
Pascoe, R., Leong, S. et al. (2005), National Review of School Music Education: Augmenting the Diminished. Australian Govenmenr, Canberra.
The Australian Journal of Music Education (1967-82, 1986-), Australian Society for Music Education.